Books on Kyrgyzstan
Update No: 292 - (26/04/05)
Ousted Kyrgyzstan president consigned to history
Kyrgyzstan's parliament accepted ousted President Askar Akayev's resignation,
ending a debate that had paralysed the new leadership. Parliament also set July
10 as date for the next presidential elections. Initially it decided to hold the
vote on June 26, but cancelled that decision in mid-April.
Legislators originally rejected Akayev's offer to step down, arguing it was too
dignified an exit for the disgraced leader, who fled the country after
opposition supporters stormed his office on March 24.
Seen for many years as the most liberal leader in formerly Soviet Central Asia,
Akayev wielded an increasingly heavy hand against opposition politicians in
recent years, amid allegations of widespread corruption against Akayev and his
Kyrgyz Republic in revolution
Kyrgyzstan's interim prime minister in late March chose his key officials as the
new leadership moved quickly to try to quell widespread disorder and looting
following the overthrow of the president. Kurmanbek Bakiyev, a former opposition
leader who was named acting prime minister and president by the old parliament,
speedily appointed a cabinet.
This crisis was sparked by the March parliamentary election which the opposition
claimed was falsified in favour of President Askar Akayev's government. Akayev's
son Aydar, and his daughter Bermet, both won seats in the parliament. By the end
of March, mass protests that swept the south of the country, had moved to the
capital Bishkek. On March 24th, crowds stormed the government buildings and
Akayev fled with his family to Russia.
In obviously rigged elections concluded earlier in the month only six out of 73
MPs elected were not relatives or cronies of the deposed president.
The least repressive regime led to revolution
When compared with the other Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan,
Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan was a relatively easy country to make a
revolution in, or rather the easiest of the five 'stans.'
There are several reasons for this. Firstly, despite election fraud and
government pressure on the independent media, the Akayev regime permitted the
opposition to form political parties and participate in elections. Secondly,
before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Akayev himself was not part of the
local Communist Party nomenclature. This was very different when compared to the
other Central Asian leaders who all headed theirs. Therefore, he did not possess
an established political base to get support from; his support came only from
his own region.
On the other hand, other leaders have both support from the well-established
Communist Party structure (after the collapse of the Soviet Union they changed
the party name and began to emphasize nationalist themes) and their own
particular regions (perhaps it may even be more truthful to say, fiefdoms).
Another important point was that Akayev permitted international governmental and
nongovernmental organizations to operate freely. For example, the Open Society
Institute made Bishkek its headquarters for their Central Asian activities.
Freedom House subsidized an independent press in Bishkek, which was of key
significance in what took place.
After the collapse of the Akayev regime, the looting and destruction of shops in
Bishkek possibly indicates that the people are very angry about the accumulation
of wealth by just a few people in the capital city, whilst poverty is still
widespread. If we are to compare what happened in Osh and Jalalabad, cut off
from the capital by a giant range of mountains, with Bishkek, we can say that in
Osh and Jalalabad the people primarily destroyed and looted government
buildings, whereas in Bishkek they destroyed and looted the presidential office
and official residence (known as the White House) but also large supermarkets
and shopping centers (some of them owned by Akayev's family and close
associates). This event shows two things: The demonstrators are angry at not
only the authoritarian style of government but also the corrupt distribution of
wealth and the high level of corruption.
If we look at the newly empowered opposition ranks and possible long-term
candidates for Akayev's seat, we can see that all of them at one time or another
time worked for Akayev. For example, Kurmanbek Bakiyev was Akayev's prime
minister. He also was shortly prior to all of this, in attendance at the Kremlin
in Moscow where he was given approval as a possible successor to Akayev, who had
been due to retire later this year. So he is persona grata with the Russians.
Felix Kulov before falling out with Akayev, was vice president, security
minister and the mayor of Bishkek, and Roza Otunbayeva was foreign minister.
This is indicative that we should not assume more than a small shift from the
general policies that have been pursued so far. It seems likely that the
opposition leaders will share power for some time together. We see that the new
government is composed of a coalition of opposition leaders. It remains to be
seen whether this cabinet can push through structural reforms to establish a
properly representative democracy, the separation of powers, and protect the
primacy of law; or whether it will be a similar corrupt mix as it was before.
The major factors here are that the eyes of the world will now be on this small
remote republic on the borders of China, and will be looking for 'fair play; and
that the citizens who succeeded so quickly in overthrowing an unpopular ruler
will now have expectations themselves, or may be back on the streets.
Bakiyev steps in as Kyrgyz prime minister
Bakiyev was elected acting president and prime minister on March 24th by the
old parliament following the ouster of Akayev. Kyrgyzstan's newly elected
Parliament on March 28th confirmed the choice of the old one and appointed
Bakiyev as prime minister of the central Asian state. Bakiyev was approved with
54 out of a total of 56 votes.
As one of the opposition leaders in the election-triggered nation-wide protests
in the past month, Bakiyev vowed to form a cabinet quickly and thanked the new
parliament for electing him to the post.
On the legitimacy of the new parliament, he urged a peaceful settlement of the
current political crisis and asked the outgoing parliament to step away, saying
that evidence he got suggested that only 20 out of 75 total constituencies
nationwide were registered with malpractice in the disputed parliamentary
elections on February 27th and March 13th. He also called on voters and
political parties to accept the new parliament as a legitimate legislature as
this will be "in the interest of the whole nation."
Bakiyev had previously served as prime minister in December 2000, but was forced
to resign in May 2002 after taking responsibility for a deadly clash between
police and protesters in the south of the country.
But 54 new lawmakers, elected in the disputed February and March parliamentary
polls, were sworn in on March 27th after the Constitutional Court overturned the
Supreme Court's decision and threw its weight behind the new parliament.
With two parliaments vying for legitimacy in the past days, there were always
questions on whether the old parliament's nomination of Bakiyev gave him a legal
mandate, and hence guaranteed the legitimacy of the acting cabinet Bakiyev
named. Kyrgyzstan's outgoing parliament agreed on March 28th to cede power to a
new assembly in a bid to resolve a crisis left by the ouster of Akayev by
Kyrgyzstan has asked Russia for fuel and equipment assistance so as to ensure
the normal operation of the country's farming sector in the spring. The chief of
the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Jan Kubis, was already
in Bishkek to mediate among different political forces. He met with the interim
leaders, including Bakiyev, to discuss the situation and evidently had an
emollient impact. The new rulers of the country have a delicate balancing act to
perform between Russia and the West.
New Kyrgyz chiefs in crackdown
Among the new government officials is Felix Kulov, who was released from
prison during the turmoil and appointed coordinator of the country's
law-enforcement agencies, an absolutely key post in such a crisis. One of the
front lines in the battle against looters was TsUM, the city's most important
department store and the only one that survived the previous night's plundering.
A dozen officers - ambivalent about working for a new leadership whose
legitimacy they questioned - joined about 100 volunteers in guarding the store,
which, like much else, is owned by Akayev's wife.
The Red Cross reported dozens injured in the turmoil, while lawmaker Temir
Sariyev said three people had been killed and about 100 injured overnight.
Nevertheless, victory is won
"Freedom has finally come to us," Bakiyev told a crowd in the
central square of the capital. He has his own explanation for the violence.
"People loyal to Akayev are the ones who looted the city. They are trying
to destabilize the situation," Bakiyev said. This imputes a level of
sophistication on what was almost certainly opportunistic theft in the
temporarily lawless city.
Bemusement at the sheer speed of events
The power is currently distributed among Kulov, in charge of the army and
police, and Bakiyev who is serving as interim president. Another opposition
leader, Roza Otunbayeva, has been appointed as the acting foreign minister.
But even the leaders themselves seem to disagree over what happened in the
country. "It's a continuation of the Georgian and Ukrainian
revolutions," Roza Otunbayeva said "We did it, in Central Asian style.
Unfortunately we did not manage to make it as bloodless as it was in Ukraine and
Georgia, but we did it."
Others are not so certain. "It all happened so fast, we don't even know if
we can call it a revolution," Kulov said. "We still haven't figured
out what happened. People just ran into the White House (the government
administration building) and the president fled the country. It was not planned.
It was not a revolution. But now we have to take control somehow," Kulov's
reasoning is very Soviet-style here in assuming that revolutions have to be
planned, as Lenin and Trotsky did the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. Actually,
the events in Kyrgyzstan follow the exact pattern of a spontaneous revolution
like the great French revolution of 1789.
Analysts predict a struggle for power among the three leaders, which they say
could result in further political instability. But many Kyrgyz say they would
like to see Kulov take charge of the country. Kulov, former mayor of Bishkek had
served as vice-president and minister of Interior in Akayev's government. After
he went into opposition in 2000, he was sentenced to four years in prison on
corruption and embezzlement charges. His wife and two daughters were granted
political asylum in the United States.
"It's too early to speak about the presidential election. Whether I run or
not, I don't know," Kulov said "Such decisions cannot be taken
Whilst Kyrgyzstan is no longer in the world's headlines, the after effects of
this surprising development will rumble on, with the focus of unseating tyrants
moving on to such as Belarus, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan among others.
Paris Club to write off 124m Euro of Kyrgyz debt
The Paris Club of creditors has pledged to cancel a 124m Euro portion of the
555.1m Euro Kyrgyzstan owes to the club, the Kyrgyz Finance Minister said
recently, Interfax News Agency reported.
Kyrgyzstan's 555.1m Euro Paris Club debt includes 306.3m Euro lent as part of
official development assistance programmes and about 249m Euro provided outside
the programmes. "The rest of the debt, about 431m Euro, will be
restructured on the following terms that says 50% of the commercial loans are to
be written off and the other 50% will be paid back over a period of 23 years,
including a seven-year grace period, on the basis of market interest
rates," ministry spokeswoman, Olga Volosatykh, said.
Loans as part of official development aid (easy-term loans) are to be repaid
over a period of 40 years, including a 13-year grace period. The money is to be
written off under an agreement that was made possible by "the approval by
the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on February 23rd of the results of the
implementation of a three-year programme for poverty reduction and assistance in
economic growth," she said.
Kyrgyzstan's total foreign debt was about two billion Euro as of January 1st,
2005. The decision of the Paris Club's decision to write off and restructure
Kyrgyzstan's foreign debt demonstrates its trust in the policy of Kyrgyzstan
"which has entered a difficult path to democratic heights," Kyrgyz
President, Askar Akayev, said.
"The generosity of the Paris Club is caused by Kyrgyzstan's positive image
on the international scene, stable economic growth, strict financial discipline
and balanced foreign and domestic policy," Akayev said. He noted that this
decision was taken during the parliamentary elections in Kyrgyzstan. The
election campaign and the first round "proved our adherence to the highest
democratic principles. The signal from Paris calls on us to observe these
principles during the second round," Akayev said. The sum to be written off
comprises borrowings before August 31st 2001, and a debt restructured by the
Paris Club in 2002, Volosatykh, said.
Road to link Kyrgyzstan with Pakistan, boost trade
Kyrgyzstan Consul General, Islan Ryskulov, recently informed the business
community that a 250kn long road is being constructed from Kyrgyzstan to
Pakistan via Kashgar to boost two-way trade. Ryskulov announced this at a
meeting with Acting Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) President,
Abdul Majid Haji Mohammad on April 5th, Irin-News reported.
This road link would help increase trade between the two countries and through
this road link Pakistan would also be able to target Russia, China and
Uzbekistan. Ryskulov stressed that the government of Kyrgyzstan is very keen to
provide cheap electricity to Pakistan.
Ryskulov invited the acting KCCI president to attend two-day long Kyrgyzstan
trade exhibition, which is scheduled to be held on May 24th-25th 2005 at Bishkek.
Mohammed accepted the invitation and said the KCCI would send a delegation to
Meanwhile, Ryskulov further suggested that the KCCI send a trade delegation to
Kyrgyzstan to explore trade opportunities there.
For his part, Mohammed also welcomed Ryskulov and invited him to participate in
My Karachi exhibition which will be held on June 24th-26th 2005. A special
enclosure for foreign companies would be placed in the exhibition he said,
adding Sri Lanka and China have already confirmed their participation in the
Ryskulov recalled that President Pervez Musharraf visited Kyrgyzstan in March,
met his Kyrgyz counterpart and held talks on issues of vital interest. Both
leaders discussed ways of strengthening ties by developing communication links,
encouraging the private sector and easing visa regime between the two countries.
He said that the current volume of trade between Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan is very
small. However, he admitted there is a great scope for investment between the
two countries. Ryskulov said lack of information and communication between the
two countries is one of the reasons for this low-level of bilateral trade.